Dynasty Warriors is one of the longest running franchises out there, dating all the way back to its first release on the PlayStation 1, and here we are, on Dynasty Warriors 8’s third edition. Since then, we have seen well over a dozen games on several different platforms and it has unfortunately garnered the reputation of being “the same game every time”. While this isn’t really the case, it is true that most of them boil down to very basic mechanics, but the same can be said of any long-running franchise. The games always sell well and are extremely popular with the fan base. Thankfully, this iteration not only appears to be the best game the series has ever seen, but it’s also a great entry point for veterans and newcomers alike.
Before we get too far into it, let’s talk about the different versions of this game. Dynasty Warriors 8 originally released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in early 2013. The expansion, Xtreme Legends released for the PS3 in late 2013, and the Xtreme Legends Complete Edition (both game and expansion together) released for PS3 and Vita earlier in 2014, along with the PS4 version. In Japan, a PC release is planned as well. The core mechanics and gameplay are very similar to Dynasty Warriors 7, with some differences, and packs 82 characters and thousands of items on dozens of maps and several game modes into one single package.
When you first boot the game up, the sheer breadth of content is absolutely overwhelming. Whether you dive into one of the many story modes with fully animated cutscenes, roam around in free mode, engage in survival gameplay, city building, or whatever else you decide to try out, there is easily hundreds of hours worth of content here. Granted, much of it involves the same general gameplay – tear through thousands of mostly generic enemies in massive demonstrations of gratuitous force, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun.
The game looks and plays very smoothly on the PS4, even if it is just a port. The game definitely looks like a last generation game, because it is, but the presentation stands on its on well enough. Even with near 100 enemies on the screen at one time, particle effects filling my vision, and the flourishes of my blades in the air, the game never stuttered a bit. As expected, the voice acting is hit or miss, with below average lip syncing, but it is to be expected with games in this genre. All of the dozens of characters play very similarly with the exact same control scheme, but they each specialize in different types of weapons and even have different special attacks. I found myself spending the most time in Free Mode just trying out all of the different characters. Add on the potential for offline and online multiplayer (including cross-save and cross-play with the PS3 and Vita) and there is little to complain about.
Once you get past the surface level appeal of mindless action, the game actually features a lot of depth. The city building mode is addictive and reminiscent of a similar mode I recall from White Knight Chronicles – if that point of reference means anything to you. You are tasked with collecting supplies by completing missions and objectives and developing a small settlement over time. This version of the game also includes several unique campaign modes. The new Challenge mode delivers an entertaining diversion tasking you with racking up as many kills within a timeframe as possible, which can easily top 1,000 total kills in a short amount of time.
On the battlefield, combat is fast and frantic, but I do wish there was a dodge roll button. Blocking is cumbersome and slows down the action, I would much prefer it be replaced with or augmented with some sort of dodge roll. The higher difficulties are extremely tough, as the commanders and other more advanced enemies can pose quite a challenge, especially when accompanies by a group.
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition is just as long as the name implies. You can easily sink well over 100 or even 200 hours into this game and not see all that it has to offer. Many people will write off this game, and the franchise as a result, because gameplay has evolved incrementally over the years. This is a valid criticism and it does get repetitive quickly if you let yourself fall into a rhythm of doing the same thing over and over. The beauty of this game though, is in the options and variety it provides as long as you’re willing to experiment. The experience delivered in this package is the most complete, feature-filled, and entertaining Dynasty Warriors game made thus far. If you’re a long time fan, new to the series, or someone that hasn’t played in years like me, you should definitely consider picking this one up.
This review is based on a digitally downloaded PlayStation 4 version of the game provided by Tecmo Koei.